Dallas Buyers Club
It is 1985 and the AIDS crisis is raging in America. Ron Woodruff, a hard-living, all-out, archetypal Texan cowboy is diagnosed as being HIV positive and is told he has just thirty days left to live.
AIDS is at the forefront of director Jean-Marc Valée’s biopic Dallas Buyers Club. It is in the gaunt face and emaciated frame of Matthew McConaughey and the frequent sweating, spitting and bleeding that occurs in almost every scene. There is no hiding from it – the viewer is confronted with its reality, face on.
It is a welcomingly desanitised treatment of the subject, and all the purging serves to highlight the symbolic eradication of Woodruff’s sexist, homophobic and racist prejudices throughout his journey. Vilified by his stereotypical redneck buddies and denied the chance to partake in a drugs trial for the FDA, Woodruff experiences for himself what it is like to live life as an outcast. He finds solace in the gay and transgender community that he once taunted and sets up a $400 a month “buyer’s club” to provide (those who can pay) with non-FDA approved treatment.
This is not possible without his transvestite friend Rayon, played alluringly by Jared Leto. It is his and McConaughey’s performances that really carry the film and their interaction is most watchable. Indeed, the lack of back story surrounding Rayon’s character is frustrating, although this is, perhaps, the point with characters who are dying of AIDS. It is not the past that counts, but the present – and every second of it.
Elsewhere Jennifer Garner is resigned to the role of Nurse Eve, who spends much of the film giving pained expressions at either Woodruff or her villainous boss, Dr Sevard. It is a maddeningly inactive role, although again this may be an apt portrayal. One can only imagine the frustration felt by health care professionals of the time, who had to watch patient after patient deteriorate in health and die.
The film is moving and engrossing. However, unlike Leto’s 2000 film Requiem for a Dream, which too sought to depict desperate and marginalised souls, Dallas Buyers Club comes with a distinctly Hollywood sheen and much of the optimism that this implies. It is at times a little hard to swallow.
Dallas Buyers Club is released nationwide on 7th February 2014.
Watch the trailer for Dallas Buyers Club here: